Yidio Critics Vote: 2011's Best New Shows
While putting together our list of the best shows of 2011, it became readily apparent that for all the crap there is out there, TV is really as good as it has ever been.
Case in point: this year's freshman crop of fantastic new shows.
Sure there were plenty of atrocities on the airwaves (cough "Whitney" cough), but there's more to be hopeful about in 2012 and beyond than you might expect.
We asked our writers to pick their five favorite new shows of 2011, and they gave us some real doozies. Check them out below, and let us know your top five new faves in the comments below:
1. “New Girl” - Perhaps it’s not the best new show of 2011, but “New Girl” is certainly the most fun to watch. Creator Liz Meriweather is some kind of amazing quirkiness machine that spits out hilariously awkward situations with ease. Zooey Deschanel has proved her comedy chops, and the guys (Max Greenfield, Lamorne Morris and Jake Johnson) are breakouts.
2. “Homeland” - If TV networks were baseball players, Showtime would be one of those big sluggers: they might not always hit for average, but everyone once in a while they’ll knock one out of the park. “Homeland” is a home run, and thankfully the Golden Globes recognize that even though the SAG Awards don’t.
3. “Game of Thrones” - For a fantasy genre show to do well is no small feat. For a fantasy genre show on a premium cable network to do well is nothing short of a miracle. But “Game of Thrones” pulled through with engaging storytelling and superb acting, including Emmy winner Peter Dinklage.
4. “Wilfred” - Whoever is in charge of development over at FX deserves some kind of medal (the marketing division could use a slap on the wrist, though). It’s enough to have genius like “Louie” and “Archer” on the network, but to add the hilarious, twisted and yet thoughtful “Wilfred” to it? It’s too much! Send one over to AMC, they could use a laugh over there. Drama queens.
5. “Shameless” - In my book, “Shameless” loses some points for basically just being an import of the UK show of the same name. But the performances from the excellent cast, a successful Americanization of the show in Chicago, and the general hilarity and heartbreak thatcomes with the misadventures of the Gallagher family all make it okay that it’s just a remake.
1. "Hell on Wheels" - AMC continues their long-running streak of producing high-quality original hour-long dramas focused on serious-ass storytelling. "Hell on Wheels" tells the story of the trans-continental railroad, and stars Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) as a former Confederate soldier hell-bent on killing the Union soldiers who murdered his life. It's like one of those cheesy 80's historical mini-series, only with better writing, better acting, higher production values and Common and Colm Meaney in the mix. Limitless promise on this one.
2. "American Horror Story" - When something this bizarre has legs, I always cheer. Ryan Murphy have created the total counterpoint to "Glee" in "American Horror Story" - an unsettling, kinky and at times genuinely disturbing show with a rather astounding assortment of acting talent. Connie Britton, Dylan McDermot, "Six Feet Under" mom Frances Conroy and genuine screen legend Jessica Lange work with scripts that are just plain bonkers. Awesome stuff.
3. "Game of Thrones"- Sex! Violence! Medieval times! While this show gets critical kudos up the kazoo, for me it actually qualifies as almost a guilty pleasure. Like the excellent HBO series "Rome," this show has great acting by Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage and many many more, but truth be told, it's the highly stylized visions of beautiful people doing awful things (and sometimes er wonderful things) to each other that keeps me coming back. Start the new season already, "Game of Thrones"!
4. "Person of Interest"- CBS does one thing exceptionally well - creating highly rated police procedurals that work passably well in reruns for years on end. So it's great to see a show that fits in that genre that is actually worth repeated views. Starring Jim Caviezel, "Star Trek" and "Lost" alum Michael Henderson and Taraji P. Henson, this show benefits from Jonathon (brother of Christopher) Nolan's dark concept of a truly modern vigilante superhero, sans cape. It certainly helps that Nolan penned "The Dark Knight," which wasn't too shabby...
5. "Homeland" - President Obama recently name-checked this new Showtime program on national security drama in Washington D.C. as one of his personal favorites (alongside "Boardwalk Empire" and "Modern Family"). The man has good taste. It's really just getting started, but for my money, "Homeland" is a couple steps above "24." While it's slightly less frenetic than that TV classic, from the get-go, the outlandish story of a POW and war hero running for Congress who is also secretly an Al Queda operative has been full-on riveting. Claire Danes as a CIA operative touched with "Beautiful Mind"-like madness is at her dramatic finest.
1. "Last Man Standing” - That’s right, I said it and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m a touch biased. I grew up with the entire run of “Home Improvement” and quite frankly, this was Tim Allen getting right back to where he’s funniest: just trying to survive as a man apart. This time, unlike when he clashes with a more enlightened wife while still trying to be a “manly-man” role model for three kids, it’s like he’s living among Jill Taylor clones. The result? He’s right back in the wheelhouse of the superior early seasons of “Home Improvement.”
2. “Haven” - Well, something had to replace the most unduly cancelled “Eureka” on SyFy. Luckily, the network that’s produced pretty good original programming and laughably, awesomely awful original movies struck gold. It’s a Stephen King-inspired drama set amid a town where the “paranormal” is actually quite normal, and it has its share of action and development. Overall, a well-rounded show that hopefully will be around for seasons to come.
3. “Grimm” - NBC doesn’t exactly get outside the box very often. In fact, the network often makes itself quite comfortable with situation sitcoms and either police procedural or legal dramas. “Grimm,” though? Grimm actually delivers maybe the closest thing any series has to really compelling, supernatural-infused drama since “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” – or more accurately, since “Grimm” doesn’t play for laughs quite as often as “Buffy” did, “American Gothic” might be the better comparison.
4. “Game of Thrones” - It’s hard to say much about this show that hasn’t already been said. Where the intrigue of medieval politics meets with clashing swords and brutality, HBO unsurprisingly capitalizes and brings a spectacular series of novels to staggering, breathtaking life.
5. “Suits” - Yep, it was one of my five best shows of the year, so it makes sense it would be up there with my five favorite new shows of the year. TNT likes to say they “know drama.” Well, USA “knows dramedy.” Not only is the witty repartee between ace “closer” attorney Harvey Specter and his degree-less protégé Mike Ross charming in that there seems like a fledgling bromance going on, but Ross’ quest to reset his life and make something of himself is genuinely engaging and relatable.
1. "American Horror Story" - It's like if you took all the molten crazy from "Glee" and then put it in a format where that craziness was an asset. Great spooks, over-the-top hilarious dramatics and strong performances from a stellar cast. Plus Jessica Lange. You can never go wrong with Jessica Lange.
2. "New Girl" - It's a fun comedy with a deeply likable cast. Mostly though, it's Zooey Deschanel doing what she does best: being adorable.
3. "Game of Thrones" - The TV show that proved that well-written fantasy could appeal to a broad and niche audience at the same time. There's nothing hokey about the world in GoT and the stakes and decidedly deadly real.
4. "Revenge" - The ABC primetime soaps make other soaps feel bad about themselves. It's deliciously bitchy and well-written with a cast full of scene stealers including the Golden Globe nominated Madeline Stowe, Emily VanCamp at her hot and cold best and the wonderful Gabriel Mann playing quirky weirdo Nolan.
5. "Happy Endings" - The word of mouth hit started out with a hokey premise and built itself into a smart, fun comedy with some big laughs. That's because the cast has such excellent chemistry you really believe they're all a dysfunctional group of friends.